Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
66Trip End Sep 20, 2004
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Wednesday 13th August (New York)
We had only been driving for a couple of hours when our worst fears were confirmed. The driver, Tim (6ft 4in, 20 stone, beard, stained sleeveless T-shirt, straw hat from Oregon), pulls off the freeway into a dark layby and shouts, 'This is the Delaware River below, it's warm and really good for a swim, I recommend you all go in naked'.
Nervous laughter followed from the passengers but the guy was serious, 20 minutes later me and Jane are standing in a circle full of naked people we've just met, in the dark, in a river in Delaware.'Helluva night'. 'Hey those stars are really something'. (Just for the record me and Jane kept our swimwear on and only about half the people on the bus went in the water). After about 10 minutes everyone waded sheepishly back to shore with bare arses glinting in the moonlight. Thankfully that was the last of the naturism.
Thursday 15th August: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois
If you use deodorant on the Green Tortoise bus, you're the one who stinks. After driving through the night we stopped to make our first breakfast together (bagels and cream cheese) and then went for a swim in Lake Erie.The group is a good mix of ages and nationalities and due to low numbers there is space to spread out and relax on the next drive to Indiana Dunes. Frizbee comes out for the first time on the beach but after everyone getting a sweat on there is only a tap to shower under. We're both already beginning to smell like a pair of sweaty badgers.
The muppets CD begins to play on the long haul through pristine Ohio farmlands and Kermit informs everyone that 'it's tough being green'.
Stopped in Chicago for a night out. Ate a 'big as your head Burrito' which was top class then went to an improvisation comedy night, a bit like 'Whose line is it anyway'. It was really funny but the best part of the night was going on to see Rodney Brown and the Hot Rods at the Chicago Blues bar. The place was packed but we got to sit with the rest of the group at a table right next to the stage. We've seen some performances in our time but this blues band was on fire. The drummer was magic and kept doing mad things like play blindfold. The guitarist was so fat he had to sit in the crowd with a cone in front of him. We were all just blown away. We all had a dance and were doing ok but then this little old black guy gets up and start pulling off all these cool dance moves. He really showed us up until Lanie, a girl from Manchester, starts mirroring all his moves perfectly. Class.
Friday 15th August: Wisconsin, Minnesota
Crepes with blueberries at La Crosse just before crossing the Mississippi. Our route follows Interstate 90 before heading south. Today was mainly driving and the temperature inside the bus was really hot. Tim the driver cheered everyone up by getting us to make ice cream. Got talking to Randy a lawyer from New York who was reading the same book as Jane, 'Grapes of Wrath'. Both were bored by it but decided to persevere.
The main stop of thge day was at Loon Lake. Jane got everyone to play 'piggy in the middle' in the lake which descended intro a mad free for all. It was a great laugh.
Saturday 16th August: South Dakota
We awoke before dawn in a mountainous desert area of the Badlands National Park. The scenery was glowing in the moonlight. Everyone climbed rocks and paths to the top of a rise overlooking a cliff. The sunrise was beautiful and we could make out the amazing striped rock formations below. As the sun rose the rocks changed colour from reddy orange throught to yellow.
After breakfast we hiked through the Badlands with Randy and a film buff from New Jersey called Jed. The path was a desert track with prairie to one side and barren rock to the other.
In the afternoon we stopped at a number of dramtic vistas and watched an eagle glide past. There has been a reintroduction of bison to the National Park and we were able to see a few of them 'in the wild'. After being charged by a Conway cow in Ireland I was reluctant to go close but Cian, an Irish guy and Rob from London, got pretty close before the animal stood up and started pawing the ground. It was huge. Much closer to the safety of the bus Jane and I were able to study the less intimidating prairie dogs.
The bus has now picked up a large group of flies. At a one-horse town called 'Scenic' we had a few beers and a game of pool. The 'saloon' had sawdust on the floor and some right cowboy's, we stood out big time. In the local shop a sign above the door named a group of individuals who wouldn't be allowed to cash cheques there. Most of the names were native American and pretty cool like 'Whirlwind Thunderhorse'. Felt sorry for one guy called, 'poor bear'. Awwww.
Tacos for tea at Cuny's table an Indian settlement 8 miles from their nearest neighbours. Camped out under the stars in the middle of nowhere after a few beers and a campfire.Jane and I took our torch and put the tent up some way from the rest of the group. Just before we dropped off to sleep, under an amazingly clear night sky, there was a howl nearby that was answered by several others a good distance away - Coyotes.